The #1 reason why sales doesn't happen
Entrepreneurs have this notion that they aren't meant to "do" sales. Their job is to build beautiful products. And it's the job of the world to seek them out. Even buy their products overwhelmingly. If the market doesn't oblige with natural, organic sales. Then the market is foolish.
The reality is the world is too busy to care about you.
People live in a blur. Moving from one thing to another. From one app to another. In my business, doctors move from one patient to the other. From home to practice to hospital to home. They have families to worry about. Financial constraints to battle.
The market is bombarded with new options all the time. Too much to do. Too much to buy. But too little time and money to spare for you.
Why would they go search and find you? In a cloud of confusing options. When was the last time you searched and sought out someone unknown? To give them business.
The #1 reason why sales doesn't happen
Just like operations and product development, sales is a process. With specific steps.
But founders find it below their dignity to sell. It's a gentle-stroke on the ego to be found. To be sought after.
To take someone else's money and run big budget marketing ads. They would rather have someone schedule business meetings for them. They would like to "share" their creation. Give a demo. In the comfort of a coffee shop or a conference room.
Now those things are fun. Hitting the pavement to sell your product is not.
It should be obvious then. The #1 reason why sales doesn't happen.
It's because we don't sell.
Sales and its brother Marketing are specific processes. That need to begin almost at the time when you start developing your product. Not after you complete development.
Here's a marketing-sales funnel that we use in my company. In our business, we consider 9 steps from Lead to Prospect to Sale (a combination of what we've learnt + street wisdom).
In the beginning, no one knows you. The market is a big unknown. You also don't know the market enough. Everyone can be a lead. At this stage, observe what kind of users or customers you are naturally attracting. The real leads.
Leads. Say your marketing material (what you say on your website, brochure or on the phone) is clear. Communicating to a certain type of customer. You have a win. Those casual passersby can become real leads and prospects.
Prospects. In digital marketing, a lead becomes a prospect when she decides to opt-into stay in touch with you. By sharing her email address. Essentially saying, I'm generally interested.
At this stage, you nurture your prospects. By sharing useful, pertinent information. Could be infographics, e-books or even relevant articles. Warming them up allows them to get to know you. To develop trust in you and your company. And may be your products.
Meetings. Depending on their needs (not yours), a few prospects agree to meet or watch a demo of your product. If meetings go well, then the process shifts to proposals.
Sales. A certain portion of proposals lead to contracts. A few contracts lead to the coveted sale.
(Note: Not all businesses require proposals or contracts but these are the general steps).
If sales and marketing were a process, you would know your marketing-sales ratio.
[Leads : Prospects : Meetings : Proposals : Contracts : Sale]
(Example> 100 leads : 20 prospects : 8 meetings : 5 proposals : 3 contracts : 1 sale)
The ratio helps you develop an understanding of your relationship with your market.
What does it take for someone to buy your product?
In the above example, every sale requires 100 leads. Every sale requires 8 meetings. You get the idea.
This leads to interesting questions.
- Do you have sufficient lead traffic? (or, do you have a mechanism to generate traffic for your website?)
- Are the leads opting-in? (or, is your messaging clear and not confusing?)
- Are enough people showing interest in your product? (or, are you hesitating to reach out, market your products, make offers?)
- Are enough interested people eventually buying? (or, is there a problem with pricing or other areas of your offer?)
You see it's a process. As analytical as product development or operations.
And yet entrepreneurs wonder why the world doesn't find them. Ahem.
Every entrepreneur is first a salesperson
13 years ago, we started our business as freshly-minted MBAs. While my MBA cousins took up high paying jobs, I struggled to make ends meet.
Using my unexpired student ID, I printed our first brochures for free at school. My business partner created a website between classes in the student lounge.
Quite cinematically, I had one grey salesperson-looking suit. I'd wear that everyday and drive all over the Detroit area.
I'd get up every morning and cold-call all day on doctor's offices. Not knowing what to say. Or, how to say it. Almost all of them pooh-poohed me away.
Each dismissal bruised my fragile b-school ego. Until of course my ego learnt to get more thick-skinned.
Eventually, sales happened. And happened again. And again.
Those tough months taught me something invaluable.
That selling is a holy job. Even Apple does it.
That sales is hard for everybody. But everybody can sell if they want to.
That you don't have to lie and make up stuff to sell. Being your most honest self builds trust. And that's actually a very good sales strategy.
That you are doing your customers a big help by showing up at their door. Allowing them to discover you.
That we have to sell. To survive. Or thrive.
That sales can actually make you a better, more useful entrepreneur.